The Pittsburgh Pirates have yet to build on the success they had last season, when they finished above .500 and made the post season for the first time in 21 seasons. A big reason for the drop off this season has been the decline in pitching performance mainly from Francisco Liriano.
With A.J. Burnett leaving this offseason for the Philadelphia Phillies, Liriano was anointed as the ace of the staff. After a stellar bounce-back season in 2013, going 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA and 163 strikeouts, Liriano was finally beginning to look like the dominant pitcher the Minnesota Twins thought he would be.
But tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays, much like the majority of his starts this season, he was unproductive. Liriano labored through 3.2 innings, surrendering five runs, four earned, on six hits and three walks. He was able to get three strikeouts, and that’s the one thing he has carried over to this season from last year.
The four earned runs today continued the poor streak Liriano has going this season, as he has allowed at least three earned runs in every start this season outside of opening day and Apr. 26 against the St. Louis Cardinals when he was removed because of flu-like symptoms. If you take out those two starts, Liriano is sporting an unsightly 5.77 ERA.
Liriano avoided giving up the long ball tonight, but it is one thing that has hurt him throughout the season. He has already allowed four home runs this season in 37.2 innings after giving up only nine all of last season in 161 innings.
Despite Liriano’s struggles, the Pirates were able to pick up the victory 8-6 over the Blue Jays. Counting on the Pirates’ offense to produce like this is a dangerous strategy to employ, as they have the fifth-lowest scoring offense in MLB. Their success last season came when they were pitching well, and for the time being that is what they will have to rely on to get their record back near and eventually over .500. The Pirates desperately need Liriano to pick things up this season if they are to have any chance of replicating the success they had last season. They came into the season with him as the ace of their staff, and it is about time he starts producing like it.